Meeting your guests’ expectations will help you generate more customers or increase your customer revisit rate. Exceeding your guest experiences will help you grow. Both meeting and exceeding expectations are always on the agenda of any restaurant owner.
Comment cards are one of the most cost-effective ways to gauge your guests’ experience and your team’s success or loss. Comment cards are tricky. Restaurant comment cards are one of those tools, which, if planned tactically – can bring a significant result.
If done poorly, they become a source of annoyance for the customer and pain for the servers (and their managers). It is such a simple tool but can go wrong in so many ways. Your customers might not have access to it, even if your customers are filling it – you might not get actionable insights from it.
So, how do you make sure that you get the most out of this easy and inexpensive tool? Read this piece and utilize the principles you learn from here.
The two main challenges with comment cards are that not enough people fill them, and does not obtain enough actionable data. So, we will divide the piece into two:
- Increasing customer comment card participation
- Creating better comment card content to increase usage
Table of Contents
Getting More Customers to Fill Out Comment Cards
The end result of getting most of your customers to fill out the comment cards and give you feedback will take some trial and error. Here are some points to get you started:
Not all customers are alike, but you know that already. So to get most of your customers to fill out the comment cards – you need to provide multiple ways to do that. A physical card with a pen while they wait for their check, an option to do it while they wait at the valet, a quick digital form near the exit, there are many points in the customer journey where you can encourage them to participate.
To start with, you could provide multiple sources and see which one works best for you.
Another way to do this is to form patterns from behavior and then cater accordingly. For instance, you notice that the older crowd are more receptive to the paper cards while at the table than the digital formal near the kiosk, then you ensure to provide them with one.
Having multiple options available that cater to your core demographics will help you achieve your goals of more customer feedback.
Having multiple options could ensure that you are able to get feedback from a wider larger group.
Before we dig into this point, we need to understand that reviews and feedback associated with an incentive system is a gray area. There are guidelines in place that make sure that the reviews are not a result of an incentive provided to the reviewer. It could be unethical and also illegal.
However, encouraging them to just participate in the process of delivering feedback with an incentive is neither immoral nor illegal. So, you must be clear about your message regarding the same.
Providing incentives does not need to be an added expense or super expensive. You could have a raffle, free dessert on birthday, bonus points for the loyalty system, a 10% discount on bills for detailed forms, and the likes as your incentive tool.
Incentivizing them to give feedback helps to get more in-depth and definite input from the customers.
Urgency Is Important
There are two reasons urgency is key.
First, if your customer had a good experience, they may or may not go and review/rate on channels like Yelp. On the other hand, if they had a bad experience, there is a high chance they will drop a review. This scenario is the unfortunate reality of operating a consumer-facing business.
If the customer with the bad experience had an opportunity to give feedback in the restaurant before they leave, the chances of them offering a lousy review online reduces again. You have a chance here to admit and explain the mistake while also mitigating the customer’s bad mood.
Secondly, once the customer is out of the restaurant, the chances of him to provide detailed feedback goes down again. They might fill out a quick form later, but to get the customer’s detailed feedback, it is best to do it before they leave the premises close of time to their visit.
Ensuring that you collect the feedback on time will help you get more out of it.
Be Active and Explicit
Many restaurants make the mistake of keeping the comment cards with the hostess, or at some far off counter and not actively seeking feedback. With this approach, very few customers come across the comment cards or actively ask for them.
You need to let the customers know that you are open to feedback and even encourage it. So, your waiter giving them the comment cards or letting them know how they can provide feedback in other ways is of utmost importance.
Don’t Give Up
If, for some reason, you are unable to get a feedback card filled by the customer – ask them if they would be willing to do it later. You could ask them for their email and send them a link, direct them to your website/contact page where they can do the same, attach a link in the digital receipts that you might send them – you can still try to get answers.
This approach would also convey to the customers that you care about their opinions and might motivate them to send in honest details on their experience.
You need to learn how to make your cards accessible and find the most optimal way to encourage your customers to fill in the feedback. Why? Customer feedback and customer experience will make or break your business, so it’s better to find out your challenges today and address them before you are out of business.
The right words at the right time is a strong tool, in this section we learn how to use this mechanism:
Start With a Positive Note
Show them that you are open to their feedback and value their opinion. Leading with a thank you note, or a note that says the customer is entitled to get a small reward to fill out is a strong push to extract the maximum feedback out of them (your customer).
A significant issue with most restaurant comment cards is asking very broad questions that confuse the customers. This approach results in not getting actionable opinions from them. Let’s see an example to understand better.
“Did you have a good experience versus did we meet/exceed your expectations?
The answer to the first question will tell if the customers were happy or not. In reality, your target is to meet/exceed expectations.
Think of this situation – The customer came in expecting a large variety of desserts in your spread, but did not find that. They were happy with the food nevertheless. If you want them to return, to recommend and to be loyal – you want to give them a variety of desserts.
The second question – “did we meet your expectations”, will encourage the customers to be more on point and be more specific.
Have targeted questions. This approach will help you understand the expectations of the broader community. If they all answer yes, then you analyze what you are doing well and how you can expand on that. If you are doing poorly, you now know where to focus your energy to improve. This tact is a great way to learn about your unique selling propositions (USP) if you play it right.
Open Ended Options
While you ask specific questions, you should also have a good range of open-ended questions. To take the same example from the previous point:
When you ask the restaurant customers“if we met your expectations,” they will probably answer in a one-word of yes or no. Your next question should be more open-ended to compliment your first question.
Such as “what did you/did you not enjoy the most about today? Or “what can we do to make your experience even better?”
With these questions, the customers are forced to give a larger breath of an answer beyond the simple yes or no.
Quantitative vs Qualitative
There is another area where you must take a more tactical approach. Many times, questions that just solicit answers like yes, no, or maybe – do not give you a detailed insight.
For instance, questions like “Were you satisfied with the cleanliness of the restaurant.” Having an option to rate from 1-10 will give you a more detailed insight into their satisfaction.
If the average rating is low, then you know that this is a warning signal and must be worked upon immediately. This technique is also a more natural approach for customers to communicate their opinion.
Be smart about which questions are specific, which are open-ended, and which ones should have quantitative options.
Get Contact Details
There is always this confusion if the feedback should be taken anonymously or with the contact details. Many times customers also do not fill out comment cards as they do not want to give out their contact information.
Give them an option to fill out the contact details. This process has a considerable marketing advantage and helps you build your email database. They can choose not to if they wish not to disclose. But to encourage them, include a message that affirms to them that you will not distribute their details, spam, or misuse it in any way. It could be just a simple message like “we will only use it to send you offers on your birthday.”
Getting contact details to help you to keep them in the loop when you make updates or take into consideration their opinion/advice. Send them such communication to build trust and to form a good relationship.
Creating the Comment Cards
In addition to creating the perfect comment cards, setting up a process to regularly monitor them and analyze them is also of utmost importance. Devise that when you are creating the comment cards, this will also help you create the right questions that you can use to improve your restaurant business and operations.
This piece should serve as a useful starting framework, and with the above principles in mind – you need to experiment with a few templates until you get the one that is most suitable for your restaurant.